Flowers Blooming in the Sumer Night Sky
There is nothing that quite says summer in Japan like fireworks. Many Japanese people across the country love going to see fireworks to enjoy the warm summer evenings, enticing food stalls, and beautiful displays that light up the night sky. Fireworks festivals in Japan go back many centuries, and festival goers often dress up in colorful cotton kimono or kimono-like yukata to enjoy the shows with their families and friends.
In the United States, fireworks are often most closely associated with Independence Day and New Year’s celebrations. In Japan, fireworks are mainly a summer event, and numerous fireworks festivals are held around the country during the summer months. While fireworks are usually the main attraction, festival goers also look forward to shop stands called yatai. There is a wide range of food that people can enjoy at these stands, including staples like okonomiyaki and takoyaki, as well as summertime favorites like candied apples (ringo-ame) and shaved ice with flavored syrup (kakigōri).
The Japanese word for fireworks, hanabi, can be literally translated as “flower-fire,” which is a charmingly poetic way to think of fireworks. Japanese fireworks are renowned worldwide for their precision and beauty. There are many kinds of fireworks used in Japan, this includes many of the same types used in the U.S., as well as fireworks that explode into different shapes and into the faces of popular characters. There are even floating fireworks that explode into magnificent half spheres on the surface of the water. Japan is also home to the world’s largest single firework, the 936 pound, 4 foot diameter, Yonshakudama.
© JTA / JNTO
One of the oldest fireworks events in Japan is the Sumida River Fireworks Festival in Tokyo, which has a history going back over 280 years. Around 22,500 fireworks are usually set off during this festival and nearly 1 million people attend every year. Some other popular festivals that have famous fireworks shows are the Tenjin Festival in Osaka, which regularly attracts over 1 million people, and the Miyajima Water Fireworks Festival, which is held in the bay off the torii gate of Itsukushima Shrine, a world heritage site.